Working on Your Marriage By Yourself

black couple arguingIn my practice I’ve commonly had the experience of having one person wonder what s/he could do to unilaterally promote wellness in a marriage or committed relationship. While relationship challenges are best addressed when both people are working on them, there are things that one person can do by himself or herself. Here are 13 tips that I’ve found to be helpful.

• Avoid looking to your partner to resolve psychological pain that you feel. Treating a relationship like medicine can lead to codependency. In a codependent relationship couples often tacitly agree that one of them would not feel pain if only the other of them would say or do the right things. So, when the power up person is inevitably in pain, both conclude that the power down person has failed.

• Learn your partner’s language of love. You may want words of love, but your partner uses behavior. You may want certain behaviors but your partner uses other behaviors. Recognizing that your partner expresses affection differently than you can put you in a position to feel less neglected and more grateful.

• Do the loving thing without an expectation for a response. So often we do a marriage in progressloving act with the expectation of receiving appreciation or reciprocation. When we don’t get what we want we can become hurt or angry. Better to do the loving thing because I know it’s good for me to live on a high road, regardless of how my partner responds. If my partner shows appreciation, or reciprocates, awesome. But, I shouldn’t require him or her to do certain things in order for me to be in pursuit of my own wellness.

• Avoid overdoing your expressions of affection. No matter the intention, if you are consistently lapping your partner in such behaviors you can create pressure, seem desperate and worsen a strained relationship.

• Avoid making mental lists of transgressions your partner has committed against you or all that you’ve done for your partner. Such lists can fuel resentment and subsequent eruptions of negative emotions.

yes i can• Try to discuss your relationship only with people who will be supportive of it. It’s all too easy to find people who will tell you how right you are and how terrible your partner is. It’s harder to find people who will wisely and kindly support you in your efforts to promote your relationship.

• Keep gratitude lists regarding your partner (e.g., what your partner has said or done each day or week that you appreciate).

• When you need to, try to communicate vulnerability instead of anger. We all need the wisdom of Solomon to know what to talk about and what to set aside. But, when you decide to take a concern to your partner talk about your wish to be closer, or to be more supportive, or whatever dream drives your pain. Also, try to avoid sounding like you are demanding that your partner do this or that. Just try to be open about your dream and vulnerability without coming on too strong.

• If your partner does something that is overtly abusive, calmly let him or her know that the behavior is not okay with you and that you are looking for a commitment that it won’t be repeated. If you need to, take steps to ensure this (e.g., involve others, pursue a separation).

• Develop and invest in ways promote your wellness outside of your relationship. Promote healthy friendships, physical activity, prayer, hobbies and so forth.

• Avoid committing acts of emotional or physical infidelity, be they online or faithful graphicface-to-face. All too easy to engage, such lapses can torch your relationship or make it very, very difficult to recover.

• Try to avoid resolving things with your partner when one or both of you are suffering from transient brain dysfunction (e.g., one or both of you is intoxicated, very angry, significantly depressed). Better to create a pause.

• If you’re stuck in a rut seek out the services of a professional relationship expert. For a referral, click here.

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